Mauricio Dubon had walked one time in his first 56 plate appearances, through which he was batting .226 with two extra-base hits, a skid that prompted a mental “reset” in mid-August, Gabe Kapler sitting the overeager rookie for a few games.
Nearly six weeks later, he still chases too many pitches. He still is learning center field on the fly. But he did not get his pitch in the second inning, and thus he walked, his fifth in eight games. In the fifth, he got the pitch that he had been waiting for, and it turned out to be the biggest hit of his young career.
With a young player, this is what progress looks like. The Giants hope this, too, is what a playoff club looks like.
The Giants rode Dubon’s go-ahead, three-run shot to a 7-2 victory over the Rockies at Oracle Park on Wednesday, moving above .500, grabbing control of a wild-card spot and taking two of three to start a season-deciding, eight-game homestand.
They got some help to boost their playoff chances, with the Cardinals losing and the Reds beating the Brewers. The Giants (28-27) technically moved into the seventh seed by percentage points, just ahead of Cincinnati (29-28), but the Phillies (28-29) and Milwaukee (27-28) are still threats.
Dubon’s third homer of the year and seventh of his career came off a Yency Almonte inside breaking ball that got too much of the plate. The 393-foot shot to left, punctuated by Dubon’s big smile, climaxed an inning that took the Giants from one down to three ahead.
Alex Dickerson, who had misplayed a line drive in the previous frame, tried to make up for it with a leadoff double. He came around to score on a Brandon Crawford sacrifice that made it 2-2.
Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria walked, two of six from the Giants and further proof of the hitting coaches’ influence, before Dubon stepped up in multiple ways.
Dubon puts the Giants back on top 🙌 pic.twitter.com/7DSLNXA05q
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 24, 2020
The new-school hitting approach — plenty of bases on balls, plenty of waiting for long balls — reflected a new-school pitching approach that also was on display Wednesday, when reliever Caleb Baragar came running in from the bullpen to throw the game’s first inning.
He was solid in the opener role, cleaning up in the first on 10 pitches before allowing a leadoff double to Charlie Blackmon in the second. Logan Webb, who had been on schedule to start, entered and was not perfect but certainly good enough.
He escaped damage in the inning and pitched around some hard contact from Colorado, who hit three doubles off the 23-year-old righty. But Webb lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits with one strikeout — one of just three for the Giants, whose defense more saved than hurt their pitching, though it did some of both.
Longoria, who slammed his season’s seventh homer, was particularly impressive in tallying a few flashy plays, including a smooth throwout of Elias Diaz in the third on a softly hit ball and a similar barehanded play to nab Kevin Pillar in the fifth, both far more difficult than he made them look.
Brandon Crawford jump-started a pretty double play again off Diaz’s bat to help Webb get out of trouble in the sixth, although Dickerson’s folly had cost them a run an inning prior.
Raimel Tapia lined one that Dickerson could have — probably should have — caught if he got a decent jump, but he misjudged it off the bat, sailing just over his outstretched glove and to the wall. The double drove in Garrett Hampson to make it 2-1 Rockies, setting the table for the Giants’ big bottom of the inning.
After Dubon’s hero turn, the Giants added insurance runs in the eighth (including from a Belt single that became his 500th career RBI). Tyler Rogers, Tony Watson and Sam Selman settled in as mere strong supporting characters, combining for 2 2/3 scoreless innings to clinch one of the biggest wins of the Giants’ season.
One that greatly helps the odds of their season extending past Sunday.